So, an interesting thing happened to me recently, something I’m sure isn’t really all that shocking in the long run for many bloggers. But it really threw me off a bit because I’ve never had it happen before. And honestly? I really wasn’t sure how to respond, though I hope my end reaction was at least somewhat respectful–I’ll explain the somewhat bit, I promise.
This post isn’t about how to respond when someone says you wrote a terrible review, though that’s a great idea for a future post. Rather, this is my reaction to a comment made on a review I wrote for a book that I saw, and still see, as deeply problematic and disturbing. I fully agree that people are entitled to their own opinions and people can like what they like…but I have a lot of feelings about this particular book.
If you’ve been around for a while you’ll probably know that I make no secret of the fact that I have a strong distaste and problem with books that romanticize abuse. I review them accordingly, I discuss the problematic pieces, and I make it very clear what I think about the idea of authors who write books where the abuse of potential partners is seen as romantic. It’s disgusting, full stop. And I wrote a review about Monica Murphy’s More Than Friends addressing the frankly disturbing level of abuse romanticism I saw in literally just the first few chapters.
I should disclaim here that I did not finish this book.
Every aspect of it bothered me and I felt so disgusted not even halfway through with the level that the main love interest was predatory and abusive toward the main character. It was horrifying. And I did look at the reviews for the book, specifically looking for spoilers to see if there would be some sort of commentary regarding abusive relationships in the vague and unrealistic hope that perhaps the author would go a head and admit that Jordan Tuttle was abusive and thus result in this book being a cautionary tale about the sort of relationships young women should never find romantic or want to be in.
But, much to my disgust and displeasure, that was not the case. The couple is endgame and ends up together. And somehow people seemed to think this was cute. I won’t go into detail about the degree to which this novel romanticizes abuse here–I already did in the review, so you can read that if you’re curious–because this post really isn’t about that. Though I will say the abuse romanticism here was spades worse than anything that ever happened in Twilight, though probably not as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey.
Why I’m bringing this up again.
You see, someone commented on my review the other day, calling it a “terrible review on a great book.” And I’ll be honest here, my first reaction was to laugh. I actually typed out the cry-laugh emoji’s on my response comment–which I have since removed because I now believe that was rather insensitive of me–when I initially went to reply because I just couldn’t fathom the thought process behind it. It was so utterly and painfully clear just from reading the first third of the book that Jordan Tuttle had the makings of an extremely abusive boyfriend, that Amanda was so clearly a victim already from his actions.
I know abusive relationships. I’ve been in one. I have friends who have been in them. I’ve spent an incredible amount of time reading on the subject because I needed to understand what I had been through. This is not something I wouldn’t recognize nowadays. And More Than Friends wasn’t even subtle about its abuse romanticism. So, I laughed…because this was not a great book. And it was deeply problematic.
I don’t even care, honestly, that the commenter referred to my review as a “terrible review.” I’m sure there are plenty of things I could do to re-write it and make it better. I could definitely include links to articles that detail why people who behave the way Tuttle did are abusive. But, that’s not really the point in the end.
I’m just…sad for this person. And I’m sad for the world.
The truth is; there are too many people who do not recognize abusive behavior.
And ultimately, though I find it hilarious in some ways that someone has the gall to post on someone’s review saying that it is a terrible review, what I feel the most in response to this is an immense disheartening over the fact that people might read this book and see abusive acts as romantic. What happens if they meet someone like Tuttle? What happens if they like them? If their Tuttle pursues them?
What happens when they are in an abusive relationship questioning whether if they are in the wrong for their reactions to predatory and coercive behavior? What happens when they compare their abuse to a couple they loved and supported? What happens when they don’t understand that they’re being abused because it was presented as romantic in a YA novel they read as a teenager?
It’s hard to think about.
And it kills me inside, just a little bit.
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16 thoughts on “When Someone Calls Your Review Terrible”
This is a super tough topic. First it is awful that someone had the gal to call your review terrible. If you disagree with someone’s opinion there are much better ways to open a discussion about it or to voice that you disagree. But, like you said, the bigger issue here is that there are people that don’t recognize this as abuse and who might be easily led into an abusive relationship because they don’t know better, and books like this romanticize it. Have you ever read Paper Princess? I devoured the series and absolutely loved it, but they I read a bunch of reviews that explained how it was a book that romanticized abuse and it really opened my eyes. I was one of the malleable who didn’t know better, and I have been in emotionally abusive relationships. We need more books where the girl realizes it and overcomes it, because its hard.
Yeah. And I think if it had been a different review, I might have gotten hurt by the way they blatantly were so rude about their disagreement with my review.
Ultimately, though, the abuse romanticism is something I really want to work hard to call out and hopefully see it change one day. I’ve never read Paper Princess, no, but now that you’ve brought it up I’ll definitely check it out so I can add it to my list of books that romanticize abuse. I’ve started basically collecting all my commentaries on books like this and have a whole review page dedicated to calling them out in the hopes that the more people I reach will lead to them reaching others and maybe one day we can have less of this problem in novels, but YA especially.
And yeah, I really want to see that happen more often in the future. The world needs it.
I love your reviews and especially the ones on books covets ❤
No worries ❤
I have been in a couple of those relationships and I still don’t recognize the subtle games people play. If you point it out, then I think you are helping us… It is sad that person didn’t understand that
Yeah, that’s why I keep a separate page at the top of my blog for books that fall into that category. I don’t think enough people talk about it, unfortunately. 😦
Unfortunately, some think books that make these horrible people into heroes are great. I have been abused, used, neglected and it never stops hurting.
All those books should die in a fire.
Yeah, I agree. I’m so sick of seeing it and not seeing enough people call them out for the way they promote such horrible things.
Like the comment from Yvonne – I get so angry when I see a book that romanticises abuse. It’s disgusting, wrong, sends the wrong message, and it makes my heart hurt so much. Especially when someone calls it a ‘great book’ like the person who commented on your post. It makes me die inside a little.
I really dislike books like this. I think when I was younger, there were certain themes that bordered on abusive (certain aspects of that whole alpha male thing) that I thought was interesting, but the older I’ve gotten the more I see them for what they are and I really don’t like it (yes, personal experiences play a huge part in that opinion). There is one author in particular I can think of off the bat that I used to really enjoy that I can’t bring myself to read anymore. This author has a massive following and that kind of makes me cringe. Do those women really not see the problems with the way those men are written, with how they interact with the women in those books? Yes, this is fiction, but no matter what your stated audience is, you WILL get readers outside of that audience and they may not grasp how wrong those themes are.
On the topic of telling you your review was terrible… It is one thing to have a difference of opinion about a book and discuss those differences. It is an entirely different thing to drop a blanket statement that something is terrible. That is basically saying that your opinion is invalid, thus you have no right to it. That kind of thing ticks me off when it comes to book reviews. Though I rarely ever see anything like this and haven’t experienced it for myself, but it does happen.
I had that same problem as a teenager, tbh. Like, I genuinely didn’t think there was anything wrong with Twilight. And I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s the WORST book out there in terms of this particular subject, but Jacob basically assaulted her in book 3 and then threatened suicide because she didn’t want to choose him and boy was it eye opening when I read that book as an adult because he used to be my favorite character (I cringe).
Romanticizing abuse is definitely top three for things I will never forgive a book for doing. Might forgive the author if they one day realize their mistake and call it out, but other than that it just infuriates me.
Lol, yeah. And had it been any other review I might have been hurt by it…but this one just made me feel sad for the person because they clearly had no grasp of the deep level of problematic themes in the book. But I 100% agree with you, it’s so insanely rude to just comment on someone’s review like that. By all means leave a comment saying you disagree if you feel it’s necessary, but it’s really a jerk thing to just insult the review.
As a survivor of Domestic Abuse – I get a full blown rage with those that romantice abuse. That’s an immediate DNF for me. What makes it worse is that it happens x100 more in YA. I think as a YA author you should have a duty of care to educate and protect. I thought your review was spot on.
I completely agree! I can’t stand seeing it in YA. Like, it’s bad enough when I see it in adult books…but it’s somewhat acceptable to say that adults can be expected to teach themselves and learn (I still personally think we should provide a lot more education on the subject, but still). But teenagers? They deserve so much better than what some of these authors have subjected them to.